What is Buddhadharma? Buddhadharma is simply worldly dharma, but it's a variety of worldly dharma that most people are unwilling to use. Worldly people are always busy running here and there, constantly hurried and agitated. The source of all this activity is invariably selfishness, motivated by a concern to protect one's life and possessions. Buddhadharma, on the other hand, is unselfish and public-spirited, and springs from a wish to benefit others. As we learn the Buddhadharma, our every action gradually comes to include in its scope a concern for others. The ego gradually loses its importance. We should give up our own interests in service to others, and avoid bringing affliction to others. These are the hallmarks of Buddhadharma. But most people fail to clearly understand these basic ideas. As a result, within Buddhist circles we find struggle and contention, troubles and hassles, quarrels and strife. We find an atmosphere not at all different from that of ordinary people. Sometimes the relationships within Buddhist groups don't even measure up to the standards of ordinary social conduct. Such people study Buddhism on the one hand and create offenses on the other. They do good deeds, and in the next breath destroy the merit and virtue they've earned. Instead of advancing the cause of Buddhism, such behavior actually harms it. The Buddha referred to such people as “parasites on the lion, feeding off the lion's flesh.”
We Buddhist disciples cannot expect any results from our cultivation if we're selfish and profiteering, unable to put things down and see through our attachments. The motto of Buddhists must be:
Truly recognize your own faults,
And don't discuss others' wrongs.
Others' wrongs are just my own:
Being of one substance with all things
is called Great Compassion.
If we want to thoroughly understand the truths of Buddhism, then we must first cultivate patience and giving. Then we can come to accomplishment. We must turn ourselves around and be different from ordinary people. We can no longer flow along with the turbid currents of the world. Cultivating the Way simply means to “turn ourselves around.” What is that? It means to “give desirable situations and benefits to other people, while absorbing the unfavorable situations ourselves.” We renounce the petty self in order to bring to perfection the greater self.
All disciples who have taken refuge with me are like the flesh and blood of my own body. No matter which piece of flesh is severed from my body, it hurts me just the same. No matter where I bleed, the wound injures my constitution. Because of this, all of you must unite together. To make Buddhism expand and flourish, you must take a loss in places where most people are unable to sustain a loss. You must endure the insults that ordinary people find unendurable. Expand the measure of your minds, and be true in your actions. When you're not trying to be true, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are aware of it. No one can cheat them. Each of you should examine your own faults and earnestly remedy the flaws in your character. Truly recognize where in the past you've been upside-down and where your behavior has departed from principle. Be honest, forget about yourself, and work for the sake of all of Buddhism and all of society.
No matter where you look in the world, every organization and every society has its own complications and power struggles. At Gold Mountain Monastery, Gold Wheel Monastery, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and the other Way-places that belong to the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, we must correct these faults. Naturally we can't expect perfection immediately, but we can hope to improve step by step. We can change things until we reach the ultimate point of perfection. Then in thought after thought, we must preserve this wholesome behavior and maintain our resolve and purpose as we go about disseminating Buddhism, so that its light spreads far and wide. All disciples of the Buddha share this responsibility equally. We must think, “If Buddhism fails to flourish, I haven't fulfilled my responsibility.” Don't pass your duty to others. If we can shoulder our responsibility in this way, then in the near future, Buddhism will certainly expand and spread to every corner of the world!
As Buddhist disciples, do we seek the Buddhas' aid every day? Do we pray that the Buddha will help us get rich, help us rise to power, or help us develop wisdom? Are we concerned only with personal advantages? Do we forget all about making a contribution to Buddhism? Have we brought forth a genuine resolve or not? Right at this point we must reflect inwardly. When we took refuge with the Triple Jewel, we made the four vast vows of Bodhisattvas:
1. Living beings are numberless, I vow to save them all. Ask yourself, “Have I saved any living beings?” If so, then why not save a few more? And if not, then all the more reason to quickly resolve to rescue living beings.
2. Afflictions are infinite, I vow to cut them off. There is a limitless quantity of afflictions, but we must reverse them, transform them into Bodhi. “Have I reversed them?” If not, then quickly turn them over right away!
3. Dharma-doors are measureless, I vow to learn them all. Ask yourself, “Have I learned any of the Buddhadharma? Have I brought forth the slightest bit of strength for Buddhism? Have I been too rigid and inflexible in my study of the teachings? Isn't it the case that my study of Dharma-doors is off and on?”
4. The Buddha's Way is supreme, I vow to realize it. There is no dharma on earth that surpasses the Buddha's Way, nor one that is more ultimate. Have I really made a resolve to accomplish Buddhahood? What's more, we shouldn't resolve to accomplish Buddhahood for ourselves alone, but to take all living beings across to Buddhahood.
In the past, Shakyamuni Buddha “cultivated blessings and wisdom for three great innumerable eons, and developed the fine features and hallmarks for one hundred eons.” He gave up his life for half a verse of Dharma. How great his spirit was! His sincerity in seeking the Dharma was truly noble. We should all imitate his model of vigor. I come to Gold Wheel Monastery in Los Angeles once a month, and have done so for nearly four years. I feel that none of you has gained any genuine benefit from the Dharma. You haven't truly experienced the greatness of the Buddhadharma's spirit. Instead you have placed yourselves outside the Buddhadharma, without being able to deeply enter it.
Our attitude should be, “If Buddhism is going to flourish, then it must begin with my own person.” What we need are true hearts, endowed with a genuine spirit of devotion to the Buddhadharma. Work hard and break free of the small circles that you've drawn around yourselves. Take the entire Dharma Realm as your own body! Let all of empty space be your field of action! This means, “bring forth thoughts that linger nowhere.” If every person would really do this, then Buddhism could truly flourish in this country.